The ’Point I’m Making

PowerPointAs horrific an application as PowerPoint is, it can’t be denied that it’s achieving a kind of critical mass in our modern culture, if all the recent attention paid to it by the likes of Edward Tufte and David Byrne is any indication. I’ve been thinking about this because at Behavior, we’re working with a client to help craft their PowerPoint presentations by juicing them up a bit with some embedded Flash movies and other design trickery.

It’s not the first time we’ve been asked to do it, and painful as it is, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s clearly one of the best ways for a company to spend its design dollar. Given how unremittingly horrible are the majority of PowerPoint presentations given by businesses, one surefire way to hit a home run is with a lucid and visually stunning slideshow.

True Stories

What’s more, a really smart company — like the one that we’re working with right now — won’t just craft a pretty looking show, but they’ll spend some time crafting a good story. And smart designers will actually take an active role in this process. I never expected to have a heck of a lot of fun working on a PowerPoint presentation, but what one of my colleagues and I did today was actually pretty pretty rewarding: we worked with our client to deconstruct their dense and confusingly structured standard presentation, and then we helped them craft a much more clear, concise story within which to present their myriad of facts, figures, charts and illustrations.

This week, Jeffrey Veen had some decent comments on his blog on how to improve upon the delivery of a PowerPoint presentation. The tips are all fine and good, but, in my opinion, you can’t overemphasize the first one enough: “Tell stories.” The secret of our success today was reshaping our client’s story into, more or less, three acts — a beginning, middle and end. When we presented that idea and showed them how everything they’d been showing in a kind of random order could fit within that framework, they had their moment of clarity. It was pretty nifty.



  1. Unbeknownst to most designers, Acrobat is quite good for presentations. I strongly recommend checking it out.

  2. Matthew – That is the best piece of information i have heard in years. And if you combine that with Acrobat Professional you can create text fields that project managers can use to create presentations.

    Ah… my life will never be the same.
    Why didn’t I not think of this!

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